Ridgewater volleyball plays for national title Saturday
ROCHESTER -- For fans, players and coaches, a volleyball national championship match couldn't be much better than the one that will be played today.
Ridgewater College will be playing for its second straight NJCAA Division III title and fourth overall championship when the Warriors play Brookhaven (Texas) at 2:30 p.m. today at the Rochester Community and Technical College.
Ridgewater advanced with three-game wins over Davidson and Rock Valley on Friday. Brookhaven advanced with a three-game win over Lorain in the quarterfinals and a four-game victory over Northland in the semis.
The match will pit two teams that have, essentially, ruled Division III volleyball the last two seasons.
Ridgewater won the 2010 championship over Brookhaven and the Warriors have been Division III's top-ranked team all season. Brookhaven won the 2009 national championship and is the No. 2-ranked team in Division III. They entered Friday as the top two tournament seeds.
"We're developing a rivalry," said Warriors head coach Joe Sussenguth. "I think they respect us after last year's match. We were down 7-1 in the fifth set and came back to win 15-13. I think that's how this match could work out. Both teams are solid in all aspects of the game."
Despite the score, Sussenguth said Ridgewater didn't play as well as it can in its quarterfinals match, a 25-17, 25-22, 25-19 win over Davidson.
The Warriors were led by Kelsey Stommes, who had 11 kills, and Hannah Smith, who had 10. Kelci Viesselman had 7 kills, and setter Molly Hurrle had 32 assists.
But in the semifinals against No.-4 seed Rock Valley, the Warriors came alive, winning 25-14, 25-23, 25-14.
"It took awhile to get our feet going," Sussenguth said, "but this group of players surprised me with their level of play in the semifinals. We established out offense and combining that with really aggressive serving, they really controlled the match."
The Warriors were led by Smith, who had 10 kills, 4 ace serves and 8 digs. Stommes had 7 kills, Taylor Elzenga had 6 and Viesselman had 5. Stommes also had six ace blocks, and setter Molly Hurrle had 30 assists.
The Warriors took advantage of good training facilities at the tournament site to treat sore shoulders and other aches and pains, and the team is in good physical shape heading into today's championship match, Sussenguth said.
Ridgewater is also growing familiar enough with Brookhaven to maintain a solid mental approach entering the biggest match of the year.
"(Brookhaven) is a team that has lot of swagger," Sussenguth said. "They play with a lot of edge. If we can not buy into that, I think we'll be all right."
NJCAA Division III National Championship
Ridgewater 3, Rock Valley 0
Rock Valley 14 23 14
Ridgewater 25 25 25
Serving: Emma Sharpe 11-11-0, Molly Hurrle 14-17-2, Aimee Johnson 8-8-0, Kelsey Stommes 6-8-0, Hannah Smith 11-14-4, Karli Wendlandt 6-8-2 ... Setting: Hurrle 30 assists ... Hitting: Taylor Elzenga 14-14-6, Hurrle 6-6-3, Kelci Viesselman 15-17-5, Kelsey Stommes 15-17-7, Cassie Ziemer 9-9-5, Smith 21-25-10 ... Blocking (aces): Hurrle 1, Viesselman 2, Stommes 6 ... Digs: Elzenga 1, Sharpe 7, Hurrle 4, Johnson 12, Smith 8, Wendlandt 4
Ridgewater 3, Davidson 0
Davidson 17 22 19
Ridgewater 25 25 25
Serving: Emma Sharpe 5-7-1, Molly Hurrle 12-14-2, Aimee Johnson 9-9-2, Kelsey Stommes 5-8-0, Hannah Smith 7-10-1, Karli Wendlandt 5-6-1, Paige Pistulka 0-1-0 ... Setting: Hurrle 32 assists ... Hitting: Taylor Elzenga 13-13-5, Sharpe 1-1-0, Hurrle 5-5-4, Kelci Viesselman 14-17-7, Stommes 21-23-11, Cassie Ziemer 6-7-1, Smith 16-17-10, Karli Wendlandt 1-1-0, Pistulka 1-1-1 ... Blocking (aces): Hurrle 1, Viesselman 1, Stommes 1, Smith 1 ... Digs: Elzenga 1, Sharpe 4, Hurrle 5, Viesselman 5, Johnson 8, Stommes 3, Ziemer 1, Smith 6, Wendlandt 5